International colloquium pays homage to victims of Tarrafal prison 21 October 2008
“Tarrafal, a prison of two continents” is the theme of an international conference that will take place in the Portuguese parliament in Lisbon. The conference on the political prison camp, where Portuguese, Angolans, Guineans and Cape Verdeans were incarcerated during Portugal’s fascist dictatorship, is being promoted by the civic movement Não Apaguem a Memória (Don’t Erase Memory) on October 29.
In order to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the closing of the prison camp, the installations of which are located in the north of the island of Santiago, Cape Verde’s Amílcar Cabral Foundation and the Cape Verdean Ministry of Culture will hold an international symposium at the camp itself between April 29 and May 1, 2009.
In the meantime, the Lisbon colloquium aims to evoke the two main phases in the existence of the Tarrafal prison and pay homage to all of those who lost their lives or were incarcerated for extended periods there. Portuguese Communist Party leader Bento Gonçalves died at the camp in 1942. Joaquim Faustino Campos, Gabriel Pedro and Fernando Alcobia also died at the prison after having spent several days in the “frying pan,” a cement isolation cell in which prisoners who had attempted to escape were placed to literally bake in the sun on hot cement. This particular cell ended up being deactivated in 1954 as a result of pressure from the international community.
Cape Verdean diplomat and former Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) executive secretary Luís Fonseca was also imprisoned in Tarrafal after its reactivation in 1961 to house political prisoners from what were then Portugal’s African colonies. Fonseca will speak at the colloquium on “The African Patriots’ Tarrafal,” one of the panels to take place this morning.
Angolan brothers Justino and Vicente Pinto de Andrade, who were also prisoners at Tarrafal, are also to speak at the event, as is Edmundo Pinto, one of the few Portuguese prisoners of the camp still alive. Pinto, who recently published his memoirs, will participate in the morning session of the colloquium, to be opened by the president of the Portuguese Assembly of the Republic, Jaime Gama.
Between 1936 and 1954, the Tarrafal Concentration Camp, as it was known, was a political prison for Portuguese anti-fascists, and between 1961 and 1974 was used to incarcerate anti-colonial activists from Angola, Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau. One of its most well-known prisoners was the Angolan writer José Luandino Vieira, who spent nine years - and wrote many of his most celebrated books - as an inmate there.